How a couple on a $70,000 reno budget created a minimalist and tidy home, Lifestyle News

Unless you have an OCD nature, it’s always a challenge to keep a house clean and tidy all the time.

It happens to everyone. When you first move in everything is brand new and you are motivated to keep the house clean and tidy.

But over the years, things start to pile up and cleaning and tidying up from a daily affair to a weekly or maybe even monthly affair.

For Elle and her husband Elijah, they agreed that their number one priority would be a home that would be easy to clean and keep organized.

Their house is in the east and Elle diligently kept track of their long wait before they could move.

She told them to wait five years, a month and 25 days. It took her so long to joke that they’ve “grown out of their young, carefree and excited selves into very boring adults.”

So if you’re looking for some inspiration to keep your flat neat and tidy, here’s how Elle and Elijah did it.

How the renovation process went

The couple initially allocated $70,000 for the renovation of their home alone. They set aside another $35,000 for the furniture and accessories.

We asked her if they should add anything to their budget later on.

“Yes, we had to spend more on the furniture and accessories side. This is our first home, so we bought almost everything brand new and that adds up.”

Elle admitted that they didn’t have a specific theme in mind when they designed their home. However, the overarching element was that of cleanliness.

She said she’s a big fan of the “clean desk policy,” so she applied it at home to become a “clean house policy.”

To make this happen, she knew from the start that they would need a lot of storage space to keep or hide things.

“It was our primary focus — designing a space to hide a lot of things.”

Elle said they had to change the layout of the house because the original floor plan didn’t necessarily match their purpose.

Initially, their kitchen entrance was right next to the main entrance. So the moment you enter their house, you immediately see the door to the kitchen.

As such, the couple chose to close that door, something their neighbors also did.

They then hacked into the kitchen walls on the other side so they could have an open kitchen.

“I remember making a long face when I first saw the house. The kitchen and dining room didn’t seem ideal at all because it was small and dark,” she said.

“So we thought it through and changed the layout several times before settling on this one. Honestly, best decision ever.”

Let’s take a tour of how everything went.

Living room


Elle said they had to cut out and hide a space in the living/dining room to make an extra storage room.

Although it made their living space smaller, it was actually very practical as it allowed them to store so much more stuff. This made their living space seem more spacious and better separated (and neat and tidy).


They also chose not to go with a coffee table as it provided more space for their child to play.

But what if you need a place to put your drinks/snacks while watching TV? That’s where the movable side tables come into play. In the photo above it is placed at the back, but you can also move it to the side.


Dining room

Their dining area is neatly tucked away at the entrance to the kitchen. You will notice that they don’t have much furniture except for the minimalist table, comfortable chairs, fridge and counter.


Also helping here is the herringbone floor, as the patterned floor gives it some texture and a more interesting look.



In keeping with the couple’s goal of having a tidy home, they made sure to install closed kitchen cabinets and lots of drawers to keep this particular area clean.


The frosted glass sliding doors leading to the service area not only help to separate the two areas, but also allow more natural light to pass through.


White is the theme common to the bedrooms, except for the master, which has pale purple walls. It’s an interesting color choice, but an appropriate one because it blends in well with the rest of the house while still keeping that minimalist look.


Apart from the curved recessed wall, the nursery was simply furnished with loose furniture. Again, this is very practical as the style of the room can change as their child gets older.


For the master bathroom and the common bathroom, the couple wanted to make sure they were both easy to keep clean.

They also effectively hid the legs for a more seamless look.


Bringing the vision to reality

Most homeowners would measure the success of their renovation project by how it looks, but the couple used a different yardstick.

“After we moved in, we realized that what we like about the house is not how it looks, but how it works for us. After all, a house is for living in, not just for display.”

Elle added that she would like to think that being precise about their needs and wants helped achieve this outcome.

The interior designer (ID) who helped the couple realize their design was LemonFridge Studio. She said Elijah loved LemonFridge’s style and Instagram.

She also said that they got along well with their ID – and that is a very crucial deciding factor.

When it comes to their furniture purchasing process, Elle confessed that she was the worst person to ask about this.

“We didn’t have a structured process, ideas, or store names, so we just drove around until we found items we liked.”

As for their favorite place in the house, Elle considers the walkway in the living room to be the best place. It aligns with their primary focus: having multiple hidden doors that open for different purposes.


Lessons from a successful renovation process

There is no such thing as a smooth renovation process. But these challenges make the end of the journey more satisfying.

For Elle, it was dealing with fear and mixed feelings – things that are unavoidable during a renovation.

Some of the causes are tasks that have already been done but can’t be changed or things that don’t go the way they expected.


What she did to get through this was introduce a new thinking system.

The first was always to express thoughts to the ID and have a discussion about it. If it can be changed without much delay and expense, change it and don’t go into it.

But what if it can’t be changed? This is where the second option comes into play.

Elle said she would ask herself these two questions: “Can we look at it every day and not get annoyed?” and “Does it meet its intended purpose?”.

If the answers to the questions are both “yes,” then she said nod and embrace it in its full glory and appreciate the uniqueness of it all.

However, if at least one of the answers is “no,” they would consider their financial resources and insist that it be changed.

“I personally need to let go of any emotions or unrealistic expectations that everything will run smoothly.”

She also said she had to let go of the idea that the ID existed in order to redecorate and pay attention to every aspect of the house.

It doesn’t work that way, and neither does life itself.


Elle realized something else. As homeowners, they should take more responsibility for their own home rather than relying entirely on someone else. Everyone has their own set of roles to play.

“Elijah was very good at staying calm and composed,” recalled Elle. “He continued to encourage me every step of the way and also helped me overcome renovation fatigue.”

With such a mindset, the couple has no regrets or major mistakes. However, there are two things they want to consider for their next home.

One of them is vinyl flooring. They wanted this installed everywhere because it is easier to clean, cheaper and takes less time to put down.

Although they currently love their tiles for the living room, kitchen and garden, it has its drawback. These tiles in particular have very hard surfaces, making grout cleaning almost impossible.

The other is to opt for a clothes dryer instead of an electric washing system. They believe that natural wind and sunlight work best, so they rarely use the washing system. If they need to wash bedding, a dryer can make them hassle-free.


We asked Elle if she could share some advice for new homeowners planning to renovate their home.

She replied that it may not be the best advice for everyone, but expensive purchases are not always a bad thing. There is no need to be too rational all the time.

Sometimes, while it’s still within your means, you just have to find the right excuses.

She shared a more concrete example. “I remember convincing myself to buy the sinks and rain showers. I thought if I can spend $350 for a night’s staycation, I’ll get some Above shower, I can definitely spend a little more to make my home a staycation.”

So as long as it doesn’t break the bank, don’t sell yourself short if it makes you feel good in the long run.

ALSO READ: A 23-year-old HDB flat in Kallang gets a major transformation into a soothing gallery-like space

This article was first published in Stackedhomes.

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